Space requirements are important components for standards to ensure accessibility for people who use mobility devices, such as scooters and wheelchairs (Steinfeld et al., 2010). Therefore, dimensions, mass and space needed is important to put into consideration in wheelchair design as well as inaccessible design. These factors can determine how the user can use the mobility device and if it fits in their environment, home, workplace and vehicle (Rentschler, 2002) Besides, the weight of a wheelchair can also affect transportation and may require the usage of additional devices, such as a ramp or a lift.
To determine in a consistent manner the wheelchair mass, length, width, height and turning space.
Flat test plane, adjustable vertical barriers (e.g. portable wooden walls) and measuring tools such as a tape measure and a right angle.
Test set up
The testing wheelchair should be set up as per the manufacturer’s recommendation, it may include anti-tip devices. Place the anti-tip devices in the most rear position possible without affecting the configuration of the wheelchair.
If you are going to test a wheelchair that has batteries on it, make sure the batteries are fully charged before proceeding with the test. Besides, follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on speed, if this is not mentioned, use the maximum speed.
- Place the wheelchair on the test place
- Prepare the wheelchair for driving according to manufacturer’s recommendation.
- Make sure any wheels and casters are in trail, in other words, they should be facing as if they were moving forward when you take measurements.
Also known as overall wheelchair depth, it is the distance between the most forward and the most rearward points of the wheelchair. When measuring the length of the wheelchair, it should include all components for its use, such as foot and leg supports, and anti-tippers (Waugh et al., 2013). The casters should be in trail as if they were moving in the forward direction (ISO, 2008).
Figure modified from (Maddock, 2020).
Measure the distance between the most lateral points of the wheelchair. In some cases, the most lateral points could be the pushrims, the arm rests, etc. When measuring the width of the wheelchair, it should include all components for its use, such as foot and leg supports, anti-tippers. The casters should be in trail as if they were moving in the forward direction (Waugh et al., 2013).
Figure modified from (Maddock, 2020).
First, identify the midpoint of the lateral side of the handgrip. Then, measure the distance between this point and the floor (test plane) (Waugh et al., 2013).
Figure modified from (Maddock, 2020).
Prepare the wheelchair so it includes all components for its use, such as foot and leg supports, anti-tippers. Weigh the wheelchair unoccupied (Waugh et al., 2013).
Measure the distance between any wheelchair component (other than a wheel or caster) that is closest to the ground and the ground (Waugh et al., 2013). In some cases, the ground clearance would be measured between the fixed footrest and the ground. When there are adjustable footrests, the ground clearance should be measured between the lowest component to the ground.
Figure modified from ISO 7176-5(2008).
For the upcoming measures, fold the wheelchair, if applicable, or dismantle it for transport or as if you would be putting it away for storage. This means, you may need to remove the rear wheels, and leg or foot supports.
Stowage length (depth)
Once these components have been removed, measure the distance between the most forward and most rearward points of the wheelchair when folded (Waugh et al., 2013).
Once the components have been removed and the wheelchair is folded, measure the minimum distance between the most lateral points of the wheelchair (Waugh et al., 2013).
Once the components have been removed and the wheelchair is folded, measure the distance between the highest point of the wheelchair when folded and the floor (test plane) (Waugh et al., 2013).
Mass of heaviest part
Once the components have been removed and the wheelchair is dismantled, weigh the heaviest part of the wheelchair (Waugh et al., 2013).
The next measurements may require you to use the adjustable barriers or walls:
This measurement is also referred to as turning radius or turning circle. It is the smallest circle in which the wheelchair can be driven making a 360° (Waugh et al., 2013).
The figure below shows examples of turning diameters for different types of wheelchairs. For details on the calculation for wheelchairs with direct steering and differential steering, review section 5- Turning diameter on “Working Area of Wheelchairs” by Wien & Ziegler (2003).
Required width of a corridor
Use the adjustable walls to create a 90° corridor, as shown in the figure below.
An occupied wheelchair should be driven in this corridor forward and rearward without being in contact with the walls. Measure the minimum width of the corridor in which the occupied wheelchair can do this (Wien & Ziegler, 2003).
Figure adapted from Wien & Ziegler (2003).
Required doorway entry depth
See Figure below to ensure the placement of the wheelchair related to the doorway before taking measurements.
The wheelchair may need to drive back to give space for the swinging door. You can use the adjustable wall on one side of the wheelchair to change measurement “a” and the other adjustable wall behind the wheelchair, the latest will give the measurement of the minimum required doorway entry depth. Measurement “a” will be determined by the overall size of the wheelchair (Wien & Ziegler, 2003).
Required corridor width for side exit
Use the adjustable walls to build a T-shaped space. This measurement corresponds to the minimum distance in which the wheelchair can enter and exit the T-shaped corridor (ISO, 2008).
The figure below shows how the wheelchair should be driven for this measurement. In case measurements 2 and 3 are different, report the measurement in which the wheelchair can successfully enter and exit the corridor.
For further details on typical and recommended limits of the required corridor width for side exit, see section 10- Required corridor width for side exit on “Working Area of Wheelchairs” by Wien & Ziegler (2003).
Figure modified from ISO (2008).
ISO. (2008). ISO 7176-5:2008(en) Wheelchairs—Part 5: Determination of dimensions, mass and manoeuvring space. https://www.iso.org/obp/ui/#iso:std:iso:7176:-5:ed-2:v1:en
Maddock, B. (2020, April 8). Wheelchairs. Dimensions.Guide. https://www.dimensions.guide/element/wheelchairs
Rentschler, A. (2002). Analysis of the ANSI/RESNA Wheelchair Standards: A Comparison Study of Five Different Types of Electric Powered Wheelchairs. University of Pittsburgh (Unpublished).
Steinfeld, E., Maisel, J., Feathers, D., & D’Souza, C. (2010). Anthropometry and standards for wheeled mobility: An international comparison. 22(1), 51–67. https://doi.org/10.1080/10400430903520280
Waugh, K., Crane, B., Taylor, S., Davis, K., Cwertnia, S., Brown, L., Saftler, F., & Christie, S. (2013). Glossary of Wheelchair Terms and Definitions. University of Colorado, Assistive Technology Partners, through a grant from the Paralyzed Veterans Association.
Wien, F. I. O. T., & Ziegler, J. (2003). Working area of wheelchairs. Space requirements of wheeled mobility: An international workshop, IDEA Center, Univeristy at Buffalo, NY, USA. http://www.udeworld.com/documents/anthropometry/Space%20Workshop/Papers/WEB%20-%20Working%20Area%20of%20%20Wheelchairs%20(Ziegler).doc